Transportation then and now

Banner Image: WIth thanks to James Sowerby

Transport in the Past

Extracts from Chronicles of Patterdale (1957) by Miss Elizabeth A. Little

With thanks to Patterdale WI

"Michael Mattinson was the carrier in the 1860s. He had a donkey and a small potter’s cart. Later he bought a horse and drove a tandem: the horse in the shafts and the donkey as leader. Tales used to be told of the donkey refusing to pass a public house without its refresher.

During the summer months visitors to the dale would use the steamer on the Lake as a means of transport and coaches were run to Pooley bridge in connection with these, and some coach services were run to Troutbeck station 9 miles away by Mr Bownass of Ullswater Hotel. Also, for summer visitors, coaches with four horses were driven over Kirkstone pass from Windermere and Ambleside returning the same day.

Fully loaded charabanc descending Kirkstone Pass, with thanks to James Sowerby

The only means of transport in the winter for local people, unless they owned or hired a horse and trap was by the post mail, a four-wheeled cart gig driven by Mr John Priestman. This had limited space for passengers and was often crowded. One day John Priestman had to put up with a lot of grumbling by his passengers because they were overcrowded. Passengers were usually asked to walk up the hill near Glencoyne and Mr Priestman had had enough grumbling so when he reached the top instead of stopping to let them get in again he whipped up his horse and drove on calling over his shoulder: ‘Now maybe you'll have plenty of room?’

Horse and cart outside the stables at Patterdale Hall, with thanks to James Sowerby

About 1896 a Mr Jenkinson living at Eagle farm began a 2 horse wagonette service to Penrith, and Mr Kikland of Beckstones continued for a few years. Then Mr Robert Pears of Crook-a-beck began on a much larger scale with open charabancs in summer, and in winter with buses (one made locally by Mr Arthur Pattinson) drawn by four horses. This service left Patterdale at 7:15 AM reaching Penrith at 10:00 o'clock, returning 3:30 PM and arriving home at about 7:00 o'clock - a post horn heralding his approach at the picking-up places on route.


The service was only run on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays so a private service employing four men in the summer was also run. Parties were taken over Kirkstone pass to Ambleside and then via Rydal, Grasmere, Thirlmere, to Keswick, and back by Troutbeck. The horses were well fed and stood up to the strain. These of course were mainly used by visitors, but it was from Crook-a-beck that the cricket and football teams got their transport, sometimes going as far afield as Mungrisdale.

A regular service to Penrith was taken over later by Mr Steven Hadwin. He changed to motor transport some time afterwards with a covered car with seats down either side and entered by a door in the rear.

Competition then began to start up between Taylor's, who by this time brought the mail, and Armstrong and Fleming's. Not much time was allowed for people to get on and off the buses as each driver was anxious to be first at the next stopping place for more passengers. The Ribble bus service took over these private ones and they now run a regular service throughout the year.

In summer with extra buses going over Kirkstone pass to Windermere and back to Penrith we have practically an hourly service at Patterdale and Glenridding. The carrier work was carried on for some time by Frank Hadwin, J Wilkinson, J G Pattinson and others.


The Lake has always been used as a means of transport. People living at Blowick used to row over to shop at Glenridding and visit etc and the stone for building the Ullswater hotel was quarried from above Blowick and loaded on rafts and carried to the site.


Miss Grisdale’s father used to take visitors on ponies up Helvellyn by Grisedale Tarn and Dollywaggon, and then down to Keppel Cove tarn and Glenridding – a day's outing."


Extracts from Chronicles of Patterdale by Miss Elizabeth A. Little

Mountain Guide Mr Grisedale with a visitor from Ullswater Hotel, on pony expedition over Helvellyn.jpeg. Image from Chronicles of Patterdale with thanks to Patterdale WI

Cars and motorbikes arrive

Early car in Dockray. With thanks to Jane Newport
Early motorbike in Dockray. With thanks to Jane Newport

Looking ahead in 2021

Today, the number of visitors to the Lake District is soaring, with over 20 million visiting in 2019. The LDNPA has predicted an annual year-on-year visitor growth of 5%, such that visitor numbers could reach 46 million by 2035.

Looking beyond the car


83% of the 20 million visitors to the LDNP currently arrive by car. By far the most important route into the Park is the M6 Motorway. The section from Lancaster to Penrith via Shap was completed in 1970 at a cost of £50 million. This is by far the largest transport artery into the Park.

Revitalizing Rail


When Penrith railway station opened on 17th December 1846 it became a significant hub for tourists to Ullswater. Tourists arriving by train were taken by horse-drawn carriages or charabancs to Pooley Bridge. There is now debate about transforming Penrith railway station into a major hub for bringing people by train to Ullswater and encouraging them to leave their cars at home. There are also plans to expand the train service on the Windermere /Ambleside side of Kirkstone pass by opening up a faster service to Oxenholme and Windermere.


Today the hope is that the rail services will be revitalised and Penrith train station transformed into an integrated regional transport hub for the Eastern Lakes, with a network of cycle paths and footpaths stretching seamlessly from Penrith to Windermere and beyond.

A key role for the Ullswater Steamers


An integral part of such a system would be the unique Ullswater Steamers which have been plying their routes on Ullswater for 160 years. One of their beautiful, elegant vessels, the Lady of the Lake, was launched on 26th June 1877. She is believed to be the oldest working passenger vessel in the world and still delights all visitors who have the pleasure to sail with her. The Ullswater Steamers carry about 400,000 passengers on Ullswater every year.

Developing a future sustainable transport infrastructure is one of the greatest challenges facing politicians, park, district and local authorities, and communities. The pace of change in the last 50 years has been breathless. No-one can predict what it will look like in the next 50 years

by Tim Clarke

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